It was Claudio Ranieri who said before the beginning of this season that his Leicester City Football Club’s main ambition would be to avoid relegation.
Now, that coming from a league champion was laying expectations terribly too low. But clearly Ranieri did not believe in his powers, let alone that of his players. Essentially, that fed into the rhetoric of how Leicester’s success defied any sense of logic.
Therefore, anyone trying to make sense of how suddenly league champions could be flirting with relegation is a waste of time. Apart from Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel, there was nothing much to pick as reference for Leicester’s success.
Clearly no one was going to die for Robert Huth. He had been all over the place without anything outstanding before at Stoke City or Chelsea. And neither could it be Captain Morgan Freeman, rather, Wes Morgan!
There is that saying: The first time is normally a mistake, the second time a coincidence and the third time is a habit. While that phrase has negative undertones (it was used to warn us against naughtiness at school) to it, it applies well to Leicester’s situation.
Their 2015/2016 league title was a mistake. A good one, though. But football greatness is well benchmarked. Only when you win silverware more than twice, can a team or an individual attain the tag of greatness. That is what Chelsea, whose revival started in 2004 under Jose Mourinho, have realized with the league titles of 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2015.
One of the things that were highlighted reasons for Leicester’s success last year was that they had no injuries. This apparently enabled them pick a consistent lineup, which allowed for cohesion.
And unless N’golo Kante alone was Leicester, his departure to Chelsea cannot justify the decline. Actually Kante did his usual thing of destroying opponents’ play in midfield alongside Danny Drinkwater.
Other than Kante’s overzealous approach, which included a good press because of his energy, that rushed opponents into losing possession, the Frenchman was not an exception. But Leicester’s main weapon was pressing in numbers.
In addition, Leicester’s counter-attack, which was a problem for many teams to contain, can be traced back to the fine long passes of Drinkwater and Mahrez to Jamie Vardy, whose lightning speed left many markers in his wake.
Besides, even Mahrez scored a number of goals off the dribble. I am sure Chelsea’s Cesar Aziplicueta can attest to that, as would that Man-City defence in the 1-3 defeat to Leicester. So, with this in mind, the thought that maybe the exodus of players set Leicester aback, is quickly debunked.
If anything, Leicester got stronger when they acquired the services of young Damarai Gray, Islam Slimani and Ahmed Musa. Yet, they have been worse than anyone could have imagined prior. However, it appears their old self of being relegation fighters as opposed to being top ten finishers came storming back in a flash.
Leicester matters are not helped that Ranieri does not speak like a league champion with confidence in what he has achieved. He wants public sympathy for their troubles thus far and for the safety of his job. That kills players’ confidence especially when he says: “I am the right man for the job, but I am not sure whether the players that won the league title should necessarily remain in the team.”
That only tells us that Leicester’s triumph was simply an act of God, where HE chose to show HIS might by bestowing upon them a league title. A miracle is defined as an extraordinary sensible effect, wrought by God, that surpasses the power and order of created nature.
That was Leicester for you. And now with the FA Cup game against Millwal over the weekend, and then the Uefa Champions League fixture with Sevilla on Wednesday, they are heavily ladened. And their Premier League place is under more risk.
With five successive losses, Leicester need another miracle to beat the drop. That would be the only logical event to explain whatever befalls them - survival or drop.